I’m a skeptic.
When people repost articles on Facebook that sound fishy to me, I check them out on Snopes. I fact check. I look for inconsistencies. I think about what was not said as well as what was. I want to know the author’s agenda. I makes it really hard for me to toe any ideological line. I’m a skeptic and always have been. There are some things I just can’t swallow.
Most skeptics have a hard time believing in God, and I confess I am no exception. But I’ve had an even harder time believing in Nothing, which seems to be the only alternative. When I read a story, I am convinced that someone wrote it. When I see a painting, I am convinced that someone created it. I can’t quite make myself believe that there is no one behind the Universe, that it arose by chance from an instability in an infinitesimal Nothing.
I also can’t quite make myself believe that I’m crazy. Of course, I must be a little crazy, like everyone else, to believe in anything I can’t see or touch or smell or hear or taste. Yet even the staunchest atheist believes in invisible things, whether he admits it or not—things like love, justice, anxiety, freedom, and responsibility. While it’s true that such things are detectable, they are not deducible from sensory evidence. If we treat them as illusory—unreal—we end up with an ethics in which the only right is superior force and the only wrong is weakness. So I admit to the normal, everyday craziness that makes us sane.
I don’t admit to being really crazy, though. I don’t hear voices when no one is speaking. I don’t see things that aren’t there, at least, not while I’m fully awake. I don’t obsess over germs or chemicals or aliens or government spies. But I also can’t deny that I have had spiritual experiences. I have felt myself to be in the presence of Someone who makes me feel both small and capable of daring. I’ve had my thoughts interrupted by an interior Voice speaking things I could not have thought on my own. These experiences have persuaded me that there is an invisible world as real in its way as our visible world. Perhaps even more real.
In addition, of course, I was raised as a Christian, saturated, in fact, in a Christian subculture while the world around me was becoming decidedly more secular. Yet I have met countless others raised in a similar way who nevertheless departed from their faith. It was therefore natural, I suppose, that my fundamental belief in a spiritual world (arising, remember, from a profound skepticism about the physical world) should take on all the trappings and accoutrements of Christian faith. No one can say, however, that I have an unexamined faith or that I believe because it is “easier” than thinking. I can’t even imagine what that means. Nothing in my life has been harder than holding on to my faith. I don’t think my experience is unusual, either. Faith requires active spiritual and intellectual engagement. Faith is a fight. It is not for the fainthearted.
One thing I have learned: that God is love. He commands us to love because he loves, and we are intended to be like him. He even loves his enemies. He even loves skeptics like me. So it saddens me to see Christians engaged in vitriolic arguments, saying hateful and hurtful things in the name of “truth.” Jesus denounced sin but not sinners—with one notable exception. He denounced hypocrites. He called them snakes, whitewashed tombs, play actors, swindlers. Hypocrisy was the one sin the fledgling church could not tolerate. What does love do? “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a).
So, fellow Christians, when you disagree with someone, do so in love. Disagree in ways that protect the other person; trust them; show that you have hope for them and that you will not give up on them. That’s what love does.